As hundreds gathered for the inaugural 5K community run in Millwood last August celebrating the end of an extensive renovation project along Argonne Road, talk centered around new sidewalks, the quality of pavement and pedestrian-friendly intersections.
For Millwood Mayor Dan Mork and other city leaders, the event represented more of an intermission prior to the second half of improvements along the town’s main corridor.
Buoyed by a $1.3 million grant from the Washington Department of Transportation, Millwood addressed Argonne’s deteriorating surface during an overhaul that began last May and wrapped up in late August. The city secured another $135,000 from the state Transportation Improvement Board and pitched in $27,000 of municipal money to fund additional pedestrian upgrades.
Mork proclaimed the project a success, he and other city leaders made sure to point out that the transformation of the north/south thoroughfare was not complete. As a member of the City Council in 1991, Mork proposed a series of changes as part of an effort to revitalize the city’s historic downtown district. While Millwood’s governing board liked the ideas, an ongoing sewer project took precedence and the plans were shelved.
Now Mork is hoping that enhancements like gateway signage, period lighting and bike paths will help add to the character of Millwood’s main street.
“These are ideas that would differentiate it from the rest of the Valley,” he said.
The mayor gained a clearer perspective of the town’s view of Argonne shortly after he took office in 2006. Mork sent out a community survey to gather feedback on issues facing the city of just over 1,700. It turned out many citizens were concerned about Argonne turning into a superhighway.
“Argonne has become the main divider in our town,” Mork said after the survey results were calculated. “It needs to be safe for motorists and pedestrians.”
In June 2007, the city hired W&H Pacific, a Bothell-based consulting firm specializing in development and transportation, to conduct a series of current and projected conditions on Argonne. Among other facts, the study confirmed that one in every five vehicles traveling down the street is a truck while over 90 percent of motorists who utilize Argonne reside outside Millwood.
With the research in place, the city hosted a series of stakeholder meetings that gathered input on how to improve the corridor. Businesses, surrounding cities and groups like the Spokane Valley Fire Department contributed to the discussion, some of which included recommendations that had been generated by Mork and the rest of the revitalization committee back in 1991.
Bobbie Beese, a Millwood resident for nearly 40 years, has been part of the ongoing effort to preserve the character of the downtown district and surrounding residential area. She was integral to the start of the Millwood Better for Business group last year and attended the stakeholder meetings three years ago as the blueprint for Argonne began to gather momentum.
While Beese applauded the city’s investment in the main street, she emphasized that there is still room for improvement.
“The original recommendations were that we create a sense of place that would set us apart on both sides of Millwood,” Beese said.
The latest diagram for Argonne includes the addition of period lighting in the downtown district similar to light standards in areas like Browne’s Addition and Hillyard. While Mork said there is around $10,000 set aside for the project, he added that Avista provides unique street lamps at no extra charge.
The Better for Business group is working on the first of two gateway signs that would be installed at Buckeye and Argonne. Beese said the current conversation involves “getting prices and trying to decide on a design.”
Mork said he would also like to install an illuminated crosswalk at several intersections along Argonne, including one at Euclid.
While the sidewalk system is now connected on the west side of Argonne, Mork said there are plans to build a dedicated bike and pedestrian path on the east side of the street from Euclid north to Maringo. He has also talked with representatives from Friends of the Centennial Trail about the potential of an underpass connecting westbound Maringo to the eastern section. The completed trail would allow cyclists, runners and walkers to “get from Millwood to the Centennial Trail,” Mork said.